Podcastalooza: Three podcasts I can recommend today

Steve Hassan – Freedom of Mind

First, let me introduce Steve Hassan’s interview with me regarding Christian nationalism, mind control groups, the Trump years, and, at the end, The Trinity Church in Phoenix. Hassan crafted a blog around the interview which you can read here. A warning to my readers who support Donald Trump, Steve wrote a book called the Cult of Trump about QAnon and Trump’s followers who can see no wrong in anything Trump does. By discussing people who can’t see Trump critically, I am not implying that everyone who supports some of Trump’s policy ideas is in a cult.

Veterans of the Culture War Podcast

Second, I appear today on the Veterans of the Culture War podcast hosted by Zach Malm and Dave Lester. Both men were formerly associated with Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Here is their tweet about the podcast:

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – Christianity Today

Third, today is the beginning of Christianity Today’s podcast series, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” You can hear the first episode “Who Killed Mars Hill?” here.

I like where Mike Cosper is going with this. Rather than tell the whole story of Mars Hill, he focuses on why fallen celebrity pastors keep getting a platform among evangelicals. He hopes to understand better why certain types of people gravitate toward the role of pastor and why Christians keep accepting them.

Mike and guest Ed Stetzer establish the epidemic of celebrity pastors who fall from their perch for various reasons. Stetzer seems to float the possibility that gifted people are elevated to celebrity status before their character can catch up. As I listened, I framed this question to myself: Does pastoring in a megachurch create narcissism or are narcissists attracted to leading a such a church?

The Different Stories of the End of Mars Hill

There is a helpful section near the end where Cosper interviews former elders Aaron Gray and Tim Smith about the investigation of the formal charges in 2014. Driscoll has told people that God told him there was a trap set for him and that he was released from Mars Hill. Gray said he has never understood what that meant. Smith said Driscoll told him that Driscoll came to believe the Board of Elders who investigated the charges against him wanted to gather dirt to force him out. Instead of restoring him, according to Driscoll, they wanted to take over the church from him. Smith seemed dumbfounded by that suspiciousness.

Dave Bruskas, who witnessed the entire process, responded that there was no such “trap.” The plan was for Driscoll to submit to his elders, as he always preached a pastor should do, and return to the role of pastor at Mars Hill.

I will have more to say about future episodes but I will end this post by saying it was a nice touch to have Mars Hill Band King’s Kaleidescope provide the theme song and I liked the choice of Pedro the Lion for a closing song.

Gospel for Asia in Canadian Court Hearing: Once You Find Out the Truth About Your Donation, Stop Giving If You Don’t Like It

Today, a Canadian court held a hearing to decide whether or not a lawsuit would be certified as a class action suit. Attorney Paul Guy represented plaintiff Greg Zentner in the effort to certify the case as a class action suit representing all donors to Gospel for Asia – Canada.

Attorney Jeffrey Leon represented GFA – Canada and argued that the suit should not be certified as a class action suit. Leon also made an argument that donors have no standing to sue since they suffer no loss when they donate, even to a fraudulent organization. Leon told Justice Cavanaugh that Canadian authorities could weigh in and prosecute fraud if it exists. However, individual donors don’t have a loss to sue over, according to Leon.

It was curious to me that Leon sought to cast doubt on the identity of GFA in India during the recent raids on Believers’ Church. Even though the funds sent to Believers’ Church came from GFA, he sought to distance K.P. Yohannan’s organization in India from GFA-Canada. Overall, it appears to be a large part GFA-Canada’s defense to pretend there is no connection between GFA-Canada, GFA-World, Believers’ Church and the various trusts in India.

Yohannan’s organizations are controlled by him and his family. Various national groups send their money to Believers’ Church in India (or at least did when Believers’ Church was allowed to accept those funds). Money was donated in Canada with the intention of sending it to India for use by Believers’ Church. If donors checked one box for use of their funds (e.g., poor people), but those funds went for building for profit hospitals and schools or a purpose other than checked by the donor, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the charity misled the donor.

Read the briefs (“facta” in Canada) associated with the case thus far.

Factum for Greg Zentner (plaintiff)

Respondents Factum Pat Emerick and GFA World

Factum of the  United States Defendants, Gospel for Asia, Kadappiliaril Punnose Yohannan, Daniel Punnose, and David Carroll

Reply Factum of Greg Zentner

Observations

Jeffrey Leon said K.P. Yohannan doesn’t have control over the GFA/Believers Church organizations. Historically, Yohannan has been in control, but I can see claiming he isn’t or hasn’t been in charge is an ongoing part of GFA’s defense. However, I have shown in numerous blog posts that Yohannan is involved in nearly all of the GFA organizations around the world. He has said in the past he doesn’t sit on the boards in India; however, I showed that he does (or at least did in 2015).

It is stunning that GFA’s lawyers cast doubt on the charities raided by India authorities. As a legal strategy, one can claim that hearsay can’t be admitted, but this is deceptive. Of course, the Indian government raided Believers’ Church, the same church that is run by K.P. Yohannan and takes funds from GFA-Canada and GFA affiliated organizations around the world. What do all of the donations go for? They are sent to India. Since 2017, those funds have been received illegally. Who knew about that? Who approved it? Who used those funds despite them being accepted from Canada against Indian law? Is anybody really going to try to make a case that K.P. Yohannan didn’t authorize all of those actions?

GFA’s case summed up by attorney Jeffrey Leon is this: If you don’t like how we used your donations, then don’t give us any more money. And if you want to claim we used it fraudulently, then tell it to the regulatory agencies. Don’t sue us for fraud.

What a smug, dismissive line of thinking. How are donors supposed to know what they are donating to if GFA doesn’t tell them? When donors find out that funds are used for purposes other than specified, it is too late.

 

Does Anything Sound Familiar Here?

In recent weeks, former members of The Trinity Church have come forward with various stories of being surveiled and being subjected to loyalty tests. Recently, the church threatened legal action against former members. These are concerning tactics and have brought some comparisons to Scientology.

I thought of that comparison when reading this article in Daily Beast about Scientology and surveillance of a former member. Check out this description of “Fair Game” from the article:

“For decades, Scientology has been known to hire private investigators to surveil and harass former members and other people it considers enemies. It even has a name for the policy, which founder L. Ron Hubbard called ‘Fair Game.’ Hubbard said that people identified as targets for ‘Fair Game’ could be ‘tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed,'” said the report. “Critics of Scientology’s tax-exempt status have long pointed to the church’s ‘Fair Game’ policy and use of private investigators as a prime example of the way that the organization is misusing its favored status with the government, and largesse from taxpayers. Remini often decries that Scientology not only harasses and surveils former members, but that it does it with tax-free funds.”

While the allegations from former members don’t include the term “Fair Game,” they do include similar sounding tactics. Chad Freese, former director of security said this about internal deliberations at The Trinity Church:

In another Angelo security meeting, you [Mark Driscoll] and Brandon discussed how you had tripled your litigation fund to approximately $10 million. You said something along the lines of

If Angelo crosses me, I will just bankrupt him and bleed him dry in court. It is a numbers game. I guarantee you he runs out of money before I do.

You followed that up with, “In fact, that goes for anyone.” You continued to talk horribly about Angelo and said,

Hell, he’s a broke-ass dad that could not financially take care of his son. He only tithes $25 per month. He doesn’t have much money so bankrupting him will be easy.

The rest of Freese’s document describes surveillance of a family and regular monitoring of members’ social media postings.

I invite readers to draw your own conclusions.

 

Faithtalk 1360 Radio Puts Fox in Charge of Investigating Crime at the Henhouse

Mark Driscoll and his religious business The Trinity Church has a show on Salem Broadcasting Network. In essence, it is a replay of him speaking to his congregation.

Some of the former members and staff of The Trinity Church are bothered that their former pastor is promoted by this show and so they wrote to Salem Broadcasting’s affiliate Faithtalk 1360 in Phoenix to complain. They were represented by Chad Freese who was director of security at the Driscoll church until he quit a few weeks ago.

This in itself is noteworthy because The Trinity Church exiles are following a similar pattern as the former Mars Hill Church members who felt harmed by their experience at the Seattle church. However, what I want to focus on is the reply of Marc Lucas Local Ministry Director at the station. Chad gave me the following email reply:

Hi Chad,
We at FaithTalk 1360 have been investigating the claims filed against Mark Driscoll.  We are working closely with Dunham Agency to review the information against Mark Driscoll.  We appreciate your email to the radio station.

Thanks,
Marc Lucas

While it sounds good that the claims are being investigated, check out who is doing the investigating. Lucas says “The Dunham Agency” is working with them. In this story, the claims and former members are in the henhouse, and the Dunham Agency is the fox who is in charge of investigating a mysterious disappearance of some chickens.

One of Mark Driscoll’s long time associates and damage control guru — Randal Taylor — just happens to work for the Dunham Agency. Taylor is also on the board of both Real Faith and The Trinity Church.

Prior to joining Dunham, Taylor worked with Driscoll and Mars Hill Church on video production and public relations messaging. According to former Mars Hill elders I spoke with, Taylor was involved in crafting the videos of Driscoll attempting to do damage control as Mars Hill slipped into crisis mode throughout 2014 (e.g., the “anonymous” video). Gradually, he became a trusted advisor for Driscoll.

Thus, Taylor was involved in damage control at the former church and may be involved in the same activity now. While I can’t prove this (since nobody sees financial statements at The Trinity Church), it is quite possible that The Trinity Church and Real Faith are clients of the Dunham Agency. I asked Marc Lucas about the conflict interest but heard no reply from him.

(Well, scratch the above because it appears the Dunham & Company is a “partner” with Mark Driscoll. In other words, they work or worked for him getting his Real Faith rebrand off the ground.) Watch:

The fix is in.

In any case, if the radio stations maintains this stance, it is clear they have no intention of taking the listener and former member complaints seriously. To my way of thinking, dismissing these concerns would be a mistake. I suspect these complaints could escalate and find more supporters, especially from the Northwest.

UPDATE: Here is another indication of Dunham’s work for Driscoll.

And Driscoll’s testimonial…

 

Mark Driscoll: The Trinity What?

Far be it from me to tell Mark Driscoll how to run his religious businesses.  But I have to say if I was a tither or someone who gave an offering to The Trinity Church, I would feel a bit slighted.

Take for instance the production studio recently purchased by The Trinity Church religious business. That nonprofit paid $740,000 for a nifty studio to serve as an office for his other religious nonprofit business, Real Faith.  I’m not a megachurch pastor, but $740,000 is a lot of coin. But The Trinity Church had that laying around and Driscoll used it (since he alone decides those kind of things) to get himself a studio.

But you know what? He didn’t even give the givers at The Trinity Church a shout out. Witness this June 3rd email to his supporter list.

Real Faith “has acquired a studio space.” No tip of the cap to The Trinity Church. Just a passive voice.

He says here on June 3rd that God “just put something in front of us [Real Faith].” Strange. The Trinity Church bought the space back in March. Former director of security Chad Freese told me that Real Faith director and Driscoll’s oldest daughter Ashley Chase told the former owner that none of the old furniture would be needed since she had already ordered new everything for the space. I wonder who paid for that? And why is Driscoll still fund raising as if he just “acquired” it?

So many questions. It probably is all legal and such, but I can’t escape the impression that The Trinity Church functions as the warm up act for The Real Faith, which is The Real Show. What kind of sweet deal do you have to have to have your church shell out $750,000 in tithes and offerings so you can have a custom studio for you to run your other religious business and not give them any credit?

Postcards from Phoenix: When Church Demands Obedience

In this third Postcard from Phoenix, former The Trinity Church member Tiffany Eneas reflects on the costs of conformity to the will of Mark Driscoll. One by one, church leaders, including Grace Driscoll, demanded that she cut ties with close friends until one day she realized what was happening.

Tiffany was slowly but surely being coerced by church leadership. She wanted to be a good church member and wanted to trust just authority. However, in a moment of clarity, she realized that her trust was being manipulated.

Monitoring social media and then rewarding and punishing people for their associations is disturbing behavior for the leadership of any organization. Alarm bells should go off when a pastor or pastor’s wife tells you that there are other church members you may not associate with as a condition of relationship.

Hi Warren,

It’s heating up in Phoenix, most days around 100 degrees, but that’s not what I mean. Things are getting very heated around these Trinity Church stories coming out. As my name gets associated with them, I’m starting to get nasty texts where I am getting cussed out and accused of lying and “getting in the way of God’s work” by Mark Driscoll’s most faithful followers. I had NO idea that a Christian believed that I had any power like that over Him. Maybe the teachings aren’t as good as I thought? Anyway, I digress.

I wanted to write to follow up on your last postcard from Luke! I felt like it was my turn to share when you spoke about “associating with non-approved people.” My story is not one of horror and abuse like many other faced, but I was definitely told who NOT to associate with. Let me tell you something about myself, NO ONE tells me what to do and women like that don’t fit well at a Mark Driscoll establishment.

I know I was unpopular with the Driscolls from the beginning. We had many incidents (these will be told later by my husband). I genuinely love people. I’m super relational with all sorts of people, from kids to the elderly. We walked into the church last June and I immediately made friends left and right. Maybe that was a threat to them in some way.

My friends (some pictured below) are all now “dangerous” somehow. I guess love, discernment and truth are dangerous attributes at TTC.

The Girls Picture

Looking back, things were incredible at the church until Trina Blatnik was no longer fellowshipping with us since her husband Dustin was fired from his position as worship pastor. (Dustin is also one of my husband’s and my best friends to this day, hopefully forever.) This was a MASSIVE blow to the church as a whole. From what I saw and heard from many, Dustin was the only staff member who was pastoral and relational. Everything else is extremely transactional, and it’s just my opinion, but he was the only glue holding things together biblically.

Then came Easter. The Driscolls and some of the pastors saw an earlier Instagram picture of me from a trip to San Diego with friends who are considered unsafe and untrustworthy by the Driscolls. One of the people in the picture was Trina Blatnik.

The Easter Picture

Then there was this picture above from Easter. After a week of constantly hearing about the staff gossiping about the picture but not having courage to speak to us, we were finally approached on Saturday at 1pm, the week after Easter by Pastor Eden Fine. He danced around the issue, so in true “assertive wife” fashion I asked, “Do you wanna talk about the Easter picture or what?” We were then told the Blatnik’s, especially Trina, was unsafe. My husband was questioned as a leader because he was “still allowing” me to fellowship with my friend, Trina. We were told if we wanted to be personal friends with Eden and his wife, this friendship had to cease.

Mind you I came from Good Shepherd Community Church in Oregon which has VERY respected, famous, pastors. I attended that church for over 25 years and I trust them with every fiber of my being to this day. If they told me something like this (which they NEVER would) I would totally trust my pastor. So I blindly trusted Eden. My husband kind of did.

The following week I had a one on one meeting with Mark’s wife, Grace. My husband had just resigned from security and lots of rumors were flying around about my family, AGAIN. We were meeting, so i thought, to discuss how to restore things between us. I knew things were off when we met in a room with two chairs pulled forward in front of a glass door with two security guards on the other side for protection. From me… I guess. This is actually laughable. I’m 5’2 and I only run if something wild is chasing me.

We had a conversation full of wonderful things like her “red flags about my family.” Then I talked about how her kids offended mine and the roller coaster of emotions they put my kids on frequently over the past year. Grace brought up her past hurts with friendships and randomly described how the security guard at Mars Hill helped take their church down…that was prophetic, maybe?

Then we got to the “friends talk.” Hers was much more bold than Eden’s. I was blatantly told the Chase family is not safe. Specifically, this meant the parents of Landon Chase (Landon is married to her daughter Ashley). This hit very close to home because my daughter happens to be dating Luke Chase, Landon’s brother. As we all now know, the Driscolls consider Ashley’s in-laws to be unwelcome at the church.

Next was Trina. My reaction: “I know better than to be friends with her. I’ve been told already.”

The “Girls Picture” above is from that trip to San Diego that came up a couple times in the meeting with Grace. This trip bothered her. These friendships bothered her. I did tell Grace the trip was awkward because Trina was no longer fellowshipping with the church, and we were all still grieving that, and it was weird as the rest of us were all highly involved at Trinity.

Side note. Grace does not follow me on Instagram and I never told her about this trip. We didn’t share stuff like that… how did she see the pictures?

The one that really hurt me to my core in that meeting with Grace was one of my dear friends, Mariya Kiforishin. She was dangerous as well? Pastor Brandon had eluded to this before, but I didn’t think I was not to associate with her. She and her whole family have served their butts off for years at the church and were even invited to both of the Driscoll kids weddings.

Grace said I should be cut off from her “for this season until her husband could lead their house better, it was best to not fellowship with her.”

I am going to be honest here. I was still brainwashed and in agreement at this point.

I let Grace know there was an event the next day and I had purchased tickets for Mariya and me. She advised against going and told me to give tickets to Mariya to attend with someone else. I needed a break, she said.

I complied. How embarrassing. Here is the email I sent to Grace telling her I went along with what she said to do.

The day after the event, I literally woke up and was like WHAT ARE YOU DOING, TIFFANY!? It was like a light came on and I realized what I had let happen to me. I totally believed the lies. This is cult behavior to manipulate people and friendships.

I have apologized to these women. These incredible friends. Thank you Lord, they are so gracious and our friendships are stronger now than ever. We ARE all strong women. And we are led by men who are godly leaders, secure enough to let us be who God made us.

I’m so sorry for you, Grace. No one can live in peace manipulating people’s moves to keep a “Kingdom” in order forever. I’m afraid you are the one with a husband not leading well. When you get tired, I think you may find a lot of women willing to truly love you and possibly even offer real friendship.

With gratitude for eyes opened to truth and true friendship,

Tiffany

 

Read all of the Postcards from Phoenix

For more on The Trinity Church, click here

For a summary of recent controversies surrounding The Trinity Church, click here